I do feel sorry for our Royal Family sometimes. They just don’t look as glam as the stuff of fairy tales. I’ve already warned you not to take your kids to a British royal residence when the owner is in (see Top Things to Do with Toddlers in London). They will get the shock of their lives if Queen Elizabeth II is on a walk about. Our royal Octogenarian prefers a headscarf to a crown most days, teamed with a sensible jumper and skirt and nice sturdy shoes. No glass slippers, ball gowns and tiaras for her most days of the week.
But on April 29, reality is being put on hold and a real life Royal fairy tale will unfold before our eyes, when Prince William finally marries his very patient girlfriend who has had to endure the unfortunate nickname Waitie Katie for far too long now.
His hairline might be slightly receding, but luckily they both still have what it takes, for my six-year-old to be able to buy into the idea that William really is Prince Charming and Kate is his Cinderella – it’s not exactly a tale of rags to riches, but her mother did use to be an air hostess, the two families didn’t mix in the same circles.
Soon after the wedding date was announced April 29 2011 was made an extra public holiday across the country. It is a momentous day in the history of Britain.
To help children understand its significance the best place to start off is Westminster Abbey where the ceremony will take place.
If you can book yourself a Professional Blue Badge Guide who is particularly experienced with family groups and young kids, to take you around the Abbey, then it is so worth it. A fantastic guide will turn this building from just a big old church into a place where really cool stuff happened. When I took Ella along our guide had her pretend to be Kate, whilst I was William and we walked arm in arm up the exact same aisle that the real bride and groom will be gliding up in a few weeks time. We then practiced putting on a cardboard crown, as Westminster Abbey is where Kings and Queens have had their coronation since 1066.
The Tower Of London
Next stop The Tower. Here real life soldiers guard the Crown jewels that Kate may get to wear. Get there first thing at 9am and see those guards open the tower with a special ceremony, and at 2.50pm you can see them collecting the secret password to get into the Tower after dark. Clandestine stuff.
Be careful how you phrase any question before asking about looking at our crown jewels, though. The phrase ‘Crown Jewels’ is cockney rhyming slang for balls, and these aren’t the balls that you kick around a soccer pitch! The Tower has a Crown Jewels family trail that really makes exploring the tower fun. Or you could take the Knights and Princesses trail to see how the medieval royals actually lived in the Tower.
Round off your potted history of British royalty with a visit to Kensington Palace. This is the former home of seven princesses, including Diana, Princess of Wales and it’s likely to be the first marital home of Princess Catherine, as she will be known, and Prince William. There is an ever changing programme of family events, check the website for the diary.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is found just around the back of the Palace too, in Kensington Gardens. It’s a really magical space with an almost life-size pirate ship complete with rigging and crow’s nest; a sensory trail, a beach and teepees to hide amongst.
The Wedding Procession
If you’re lucky enough to be in London for the actual day of the wedding, you could try and park yourself in a spot along the route, details of which can be found here. The bride and groom will go to the Abbey in separate cars, passing along The Mall, Horse Guard’s Parade and Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey. After the ceremony at 11am, they will return together by horse-drawn carriage along the same route to The Mall, ending up at Buckingham Palace for the reception. For further detail on the route keep an eye on the Official Royal Wedding Website. If you do plan to get a glimpse of the new princess in her fairytale carriage I’d leave any strollers behind and rely on shoulders and babycarriers to help get kids a peep above the crowds.
The wedding is also likely to be shown on big outdoor screens across the country, whilst hundreds of local neighbourhoods across the UK are expected to throw street parties. Go for a wonder and head for the bunting to experience a real British knees up!
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